new Novella of Highfill, Kansas?

Often times, I have referred to The Novellas of Highfill, Kansas as some variant or another on the term “a writing project I thoroughly regret publishing.”  While the review sections on Amazon, and all the places I submitted them to for reviews have been a regular ghostopolis (IE, dead silent), a couple of readers have insisted I’m too hard on myself.  Well, I suppose the important thing is THEY like what they read.  Lord knows two years later, I don’t like them.

All that being said, I’ve been open to the idea of writing more of them.  The only real guarantee I’ve made in the past is that Jodi LaVey and her wife won’t be the main characters, or really any part of future novels.  Jodi’s story is told, and there’s not much else I can do with it.

I’m really more interested in expanding on the setting, the mindset, the culture…  Or really, just providing Highfill as a setting for miscellaneous novellas that have nothing but the setting in common.  In fact, the only reason The Majin Among Us ended up not being a Novella of Highfill, Kansas was due to its supernatural fantasy elements.  So I had to forge a similar town with Redcrest, and make it a whole separate entity.

I’ve had scribbles of ideas in the old internal scribblepad for other Highfill, Kansas stories.

The oldest of the scribbles was a story under the title of Election.  Gwen LaVey was featured as one of the three narrators who told the story of a democrat’s effort to run for mayor of Highfill against a republican candidate so corrupt that Donald Trump looks like the fucking pope by comparison.  Despite his corruption, though, he’s still the popular candidate on the grounds that, while he’s a misogynist, a racist, an incompetent boob, and a spoiled brat with no social skills, at least he’s not a democrat.  I eventually abandoned it on the grounds it’s basically a fictionalized account of either the 2016 presidential election, or the 2014 governor’s race here in Kansas.  Really, take your pick.  I haven’t deleted the idea, but I don’t plan on writing this one any time soon.

Another idea I’d had sitting around was simply titled Boxmart.  I hadn’t really built much around the story beyond the fact it was set primarily at a big box store creatively named Boxmart, and that Jodi would make a cameo.  This one probably needs more work.

Another idea I had was for a story called Court Case.  Gwen would be featured prominently, but she wouldn’t be any of the three narrators.  I had the beginning, and the ending mapped out… But no middle.  I may tweek this one a little in the future.

However, the most recent of the scribblings is what I ended up picking as my next writing project.

The story is officially titled Sarah’s Phone.  It’s set in Highfill, Kansas, and possesses a healthy dose of the backward dark that made the first two what they are.  However, as I promised before, it has nothing to do with the LaVey family in the slightest.  Also, at the rate things are going, it’s looking like there is only one narrator.  At least in the traditional sense of what makes a narrator, anyway.  If and when I finish this story idea, you’ll see what I mean.

I have no time table for when Sarah’s Phone: A Novella of Highfill, Kansas will be available for purchase, but if it’s anything like the first two, it shouldn’t be especially long.

I’ll be sure to keep ou updated, either her, or on my Facebook, on progress.  All I can guarantee out the gate is that knowing my luck, I’ll probably end up hating it like I hate the other Novellas of Highfill, Kansas a year, or even six months later.  For now, though, I’m interested in seeing where this idea takes me.

Advertisements

The Majin Among Us Sample Chapter!

I’ve expressed concerns of being an incompetent, Marvel Comics caliber social justice warrior a week or so ago, and I ended up with some…  Interesting, feedback on the matter.  In the longrun, I guess the only way to truly find out is to just put it out there, and let the people decide.

As of this writing, I’m on the verge of finishing the second draft.  there’s at least two or three more drafts that need to happen before this gets released to the public, but I’m feeling pretty confident about getting this in around the beginning of February.  In fact, let’s just make it official: I’m aiming for 2/11/17 for a release date.  Set your calendar apps to that date, and when you don’t see it on Amazon, check back here for a possible explanation.  Or just bitch me out.

In the meantime, I hope this sample chapter suffices.

DISCLAIMER!: This is the second draft version of the chapter.  If there are some noticeable errors, it’s because I may have missed them in my initial proofreading.  With luck, I, or my spellchecker will catch them in future drafts.

 

Also, as is the case with sample chapters, this version of the chapter might not be the version you end up getting.  Until the final version becomes available, though, I hope you enjoy.

 

 

THE MAJIN AMONG US

COPYRIGHT 2018 BY THOMAS J. BLACK

 

 

8

 

 

I thought for sure I was going to have to play detective that day. I dreaded this, because back in those days, I was never especially good at detective work. Sure, Redcrest was pretty tiny, but there were still a pretty considerable amount of nooks and crannies she and her family could’ve been hiding in that I’d have never thought of looking.

So it was probably a good thing that I didn’t actually have to do any of that detective work. I don’t know how, exactly, but somehow, Debbie was able to find where I lived! All I know was that there was a knock at the door, and Debbie was standing on the other side when my mom answered it. Next thing I know, we’re taking my car to her place.

It turned out that she lived clear on the other side of Redcrest. Specifically, the bad part of Redcrest. The part Joe Jack’s dad lived. The part where all the meth heads from neighboring towns go to buy their product. The part of town all the adults warn us about.

“You live out here?” I asked. Considering this was the same girl who could turn people into chocolate on a whim, this shouldn’t have been as shocking. And yet, here we were.

“Yeah,” said Debbie. “My parents aren’t exactly the wealthiest people on the planet. Especially not these days.”

“What happened?” I asked.

Rather than answer my question there, she pointed to a house further up. “That’s my place,” she said.

In terms of houses in bad neighborhoods, you really could’ve done worse than Debbie’s place. You could do better, for sure, but you could’ve done worse. The outside could’ve probably used a new coat of paint, and the lawn definitely saw better days, but none of the windows were broken, and there weren’t any toilets or washing machines in the front lawn. More than I could say for a couple of her neighbors.

The inside smelled like cat piss. Debbie’s family clearly didn’t own any cats, or really any pets at all for that matter. I’m guessing that was left over from the people who used to live here? The carpet was a dull dark grayish color, and the furnature was clearly thrift store furnature. The couch had a pretty generous amount of cushioning torn out of one of the arm rests, and one of the chairs looked like someone fatter than the chair could handle sat in it.

Debbie gestured for me to have a seat on the couch. Rather than join me, she chose to take a seat a foot or two away from me on the floor. She looked me from down their, and I looked at her from up where I was.

“Okay,” she said. “Let’s just get down to it. I find that in situations like this, it’s just easier to get all the awkward questions out of the way right here and now. I’m sure you have plenty of questions, and I probably have answers. So go ahead, ask me anything.”

I thought about it for all of three seconds. “What the hell!?” I exclaimed.

Debbie laughed a little. “Okay, maybe broaden it a little more than that.”

“You ate chad!” I exclaimed.

“Are we really still dwelling on this?”

“Um, yeah, we are!”

Debbie started to sigh in frustration… But halfway in, she seemed to come to a revelation.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “You didn’t want to eat him by chance, did you? I’m so sorry!”

“What?” Was all I could say in response to that.

“I really should’ve taken your pride into consideration,” she said. I thought for a split second she might’ve been mocking me, but all it took was a look at her face to see she genuinely meant what she was saying. “I mean the guy was clearly beating you up and everything. It probably would’ve satisfied your pride if you’d been the one to eat him. Plus it’d be pretty ironic. He always did want to be inside another man, after all. What better…”

That’s not even close!” I interrupted, maybe a little louder than I would’ve liked.

Debbie blinked. “Huh. Okay, what’s the deal?”

“Debbie, you took someone’s life!”

“And?”

“What the hell do you mean and?”

Debbie snapped her fingers, coming to another realization. “Oh, right! You’re a human. I can’t believe I keep forgetting that.”

I blinked. “What?”

Debbie stood up then. “Maybe it would help if I dispelled my glamour.”

“Glamour?”

She bowed her head, and closed her eyes. Then, to my absolute shock, she began to change! Admittedly, her appearance didn’t change all that much. However, it was enough to surprise me.

Her skin went from pretty standard Caucasian to cotton candy pink. She opened her eyes, and revealed that they were now the color of blood. Her hair remained in the same style it had been before, but now it was a very dark blue. On the sides of her head were little nubs that looked like they were trying to be horns, but were too short.

“Whew,” she said, “that feels good. Glamours are so hard to maintain, you know? Wait, you probably don’t know.”

“Whah… I… What are you?” I stammered out, astonished.

Debbie took a seat on the floor once again. “I’m a majin,” she explained. “My whole family are majins.”

I vaguely remembered her mentioning majins that one time, and it became clear her dumb little joke that only mythology buffs would probably find funny wasn’t a joke after all. She really was a majin in human clothes.

Unfortunately, rather than answering any of my questions, it only raised more.

“I think I explained what majin are,” said Debbie, trying to fill the awkward silence.

“Yeah,” I replied. “Apparently, they’re pink devils who can turn people into chocolate, and have no problem with eating them right afterward.”

“I didn’t want to use my powers on him,” Debbie protested. “I hated seeing him and his friends bully you around like that. And believe me, you’re far from the first person he’s harassed.”

“Oh you don’t have to tell me. I already know that guy was a douche. Everybody did. But eating him? Couldn’t you have just used your little jedi mind trick on him like you did with his friends?”

Debbie blushed… I think. The color scheme was not something I was used to, but it definitely looked like she was blushing then.

“I suppose I was thinking with my stomach again,” she said. “I knew I should’ve gotten some snacks at the theater.”

“Uh… Okay then. I’m guessing that’s a majin thing?”

“Kind of. For sure, it’s a Debbie thing. Majin in general are pretty hedonistic.”

“Hedo-what?”

“Hedenistic. It means do whatever because it feels good, and to hell with the consequences. On the positive side, that just means a lot of us like food. Or sleep. Or… Um, “other pleasures”.”

It didn’t take me long to figure out what that meant.

“I suppose that’s the problem when you’re an all-powerful godlike being who lives for flippin’ ever,” she continued. “We tend to think of humans the same way humans think of cows or chickens. Or more positively, we tend to think of you the same way you think of cats and dogs.”

“So we’re either food, or we’re pets,” I clarified.

“At worst, I’d say food. At best, I’d say you’re just another animal we have to share the planet with. Nothing personal. It’s just that majins have to eat too. And like I said last night, nobody’s going to miss that douche.”

“His parents are going to miss him. His friends are going to miss him. And even if nobody ends up missing him, people are going to notice he’s gone. Redcrest isn’t that big a town. Somebody goes missing, you usually hear all about it. Not to mention that guy was the star quarterback.”

“Oh, woopy for him. He can throw a ball, so we should put him on a pedistol and treat him like a god.”

I couldn’t say I disagreed with that. People around Redcrest worshipped Chad Testaberger. It was a popular joke around Draiman High that they held him back twice so he could get the football team to state. The other kids looked at him as someone to respect. The adults looked at him like he was somehow going to make them rich. In the case of people like Pat’s dad, he probably was.

The sad part is as disgusting as this was, it wasn’t, and actually still isn’t exclusive to Redcrest. We treat football players in this entire country better than our teachers, our emergency service workers… Really, better than everybody. And why? Because they can throw a ball really far? Because they can get tackled by a three-hundred pound lummox with an additional fifty pounds of padding?

They’re certainly not good people. I swear to god, there was at least one player a week getting a D.U.I. or a drug charge. And that was the standard nonsense. If you wanted the really bad stuff, you need only look at guys like Ray Louis, or Hector Hernandez: men who were charged with, and possibly even got away with murder. Although I think Hernandez eventually got caught, but I digress.

The fact football players, be they big time NFL players, or small time high school flunkouts in the making like Chad, are worshipped like gods is definitely something Debbie and I could see eye to eye on. Unfortunately, it was straying from the point entirely. Even if Chad was a douche, a closet case, and frankly, an individual the world would be better off without, Debbie had still opened pandora’s box on this one.

She was in the middle of a rant that, in short, was exactly what I was saying just now. However, she chose to end the rant with, “You want to see a god? A little majin like me is the closest thing you’re going to get.”

I chuckled. “If you’re so godlike,” I countered, “why do you and your parents live in such a dump? Surely, you could use your magic to counterfit money and buy a nice house out in the good part of town.”

“Because we’re trying to lay low,” said Debbie. “And in any case, that’d be a vulgar display of power.”

“Sort of like Jesus refusing to perform miracles on the spot?”

“Well yeah, in concept. My grandpa insists Jesus was either a very opinionated street preacher, or the head of one of history’s most successful cults.”

“Cult?”

“Well yeah. The only real difference between a cult and a religion is the difference between a membership in the dozens and a membership in the millions. We’re kind of getting off track here, though. Basically, I don’t see what the big deal is with you humans and football. Hell, it’s not even football! It’s not in the shape of a ball, and the only real footwork is in how far you can run.”

“Well… Okay. You’re more than welcome to have that opinion, but it still doesn’t change the fact people are going to notice Chad is gone now. And if they figure out there’s a pink devil girl around here with the power to turn people into chocolate…”

“Not my problem.”

I was at a loss for words then.

Debbie laughed. “Honey, if humans could kill us with anything less than a nuclear bomb, there’d be significantly fewer majins in the world.”

I sighed in frustration, which led her to laugh at me.

“Relax,” she said. “I’m not going to pick a fight with the entire human race. All I want to do is live my life, and enjoy the ride.like you. The only difference is we live a lot longer than you.”

“Really?” I asked. “Like, how long?”

“Well, that depends on the majin, really. My grandpa was somewhere around a couple thousand before he finally passed.”

THOUSAND!?

Debbie laughed again. “It is way too easy to blow your minds, you know? But yeah, thousand.”

“Okay, uh, I know I’m not supposed to ask a lady this, but how old are you?”

“I’ll be a hundred and ninety-eight in December. I’m guessing that whole “never ask a lady how old she is” thing is a human taboo? Probably because you guys only ever live to be seventy or eighty on average.”

“I… Uh, I guess so. I always thought it was a girl taboo more than a human taboo.”

Girl taboo, huh? Majins don’t have a whole lot of those compared to humans. I mean we have similar ones to humans, like “Thou shalt not kill”, “Honor thy mother and thy father”, and so on, but the only real taboo I can think of we don’t have in common is “thou shalt not use thy magic on thy fellow majin”.”

“Um, I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of commandments there.”

“Eh, six in one, half a dozen in the other. The important thing is majin are discouraged from using magic on each other. Which… Sort of brings us to Scott.”

“Yeah, who is this Scott anyway?”

Debbie was about to explain, but then the front door came open. A woman with a similar Buddha belly shape, and brown hair to Debbie came in first. She was followed by a skinny looking man wearing overalls, a trucker hat, and sporting a thick black handlebar mustache. Someone was clearly trying way too hard to appear Midwestern. He looked like how one of those douches in San Fransisco thought us Midwestern folk looked. The woman had a better concept, if only because she didn’t really where anything that screamed “YOU’RE TRYING TOO HARD!” to anyone who looked her way.

Lastly, there came what had to be the fattest man I think I’d ever seen. If he were any fatter, he’d probably need one of those scooters those fat city people ride around on when they go to Walmart.

“That was a good walk,” said the woman.

“Brad like walk!” the fat one declared, clapping.

“You sure did,” said the woman. “Now head up to your room, and…”

“Debbie!” the man interrupted. “What are you doing out of your disguise!?”

Debbie was already on her feet by then. She handled herself calmly… Sort of.

“You really went out into town like that?” she asked, pointing at her dad’s overalls.

“Debbie, we have to be glamoured, remember?” her dad insisted.

“But dressed like that?” Debbie countered. “I keep telling you guys that nobody here dresses like that. You look like a couple of damn Beverly Hillbillies!

“fair point,” the woman interrupted before the man could say something, “but you still need to look human if you’re going to socialize with these things.”

“It’s okay,” said Debbie, calming down. “He already knows what we are. Kind of.”

She explained that I had unfortunately seen her use magic. She bent the truth just a little, implying both of us were backed into a corner and left with no alternative. She made it sound like Chad and his goon squad were going to kill us! At absolute most, he’d probably just shove me around like he had been doing for a while longer, make a few more gay jokes only Joe Jack thought were funny, and call it an evening. Debbie could’ve probably gone home right then and there, and they wouldn’t have even noticed she was gone.

The father sighed, and his glamour faded. I soon learned the mustache was fake as he pealed it off. Debbie’s mom unglamoured next, revealing she had the same dark blue hair as her daughter. Brad, the fat one, seemed confused.

“Mom said Brad need be human in front of humans,” he said, puzzled.

“Your sister already blew our cover,” his dad explained. “You can unglamour yourself in front of this…”

“Okay!” said Brad, way too inthusiastically.

With that, Brad’s glamour faded. Rather than two nubby little horns on the sides of his head like Debbie and her mom, he had one long horn protruding out of his forehead. It made him look like a unicorn trapped in a human-shaped bubblegum mold, honestly.

Debbie’s dad removed the trucker hat, and a unicorn horn of his own popped out of his forehead with a faint pop noise.

“Go to your room, Brad,” Debbie’s mom ordered. “We need to have a talk with your sister.”

“Okay!” said Brad.

Gleefully, Brad went barreling past his sister and me, and down the hallway to his room. It was just the four of us then. I wasn’t sure of anything at that point, but I couldn’t help but think that nothing good was going to come of this.

 

 

SJW Concerns

The Majin Among Us is my latest writing project I plan to get published.  It’s pretty much guaranteed to be getting a paperback release at this time, so good news for all you people who prefer paper to ebook.

The further I get in to this project, though, the more one particular worry hits me.  That concern is that my book immediately gets dismissed as social justice tripe.  I’ll be posting a sample chapter within the week, but for now, take my word on it when I say that this thing may be a little preachy.

Make no mistake, I’m a lefty at heart.  True, I abandoned the democrats completely in 2016 after the stunt they pulled, and I’ve spoken highly of various aspects of libertarian ideaology, but in my heart of hearts, I’m still a lefty in many aspects.  I believe gays should be allowed to get married.  I believe abortion should be legal.  I believe net neutrality should’ve never been repealed.  I believe marijuana should be legal for recreational use, although I’d settle for medicinal if that’s how we have to start out.  I believe if someone wants to mutilate the shit out of their body in order to resemble a woman, why not?  Really, the only things I DON’T agree with my fellow lefties on is gun control (I’m pro-constitutional carry), and the death penalty (hang ’em all!), but that’s pretty much it.

Then we get into the kind of nonsense that passes for modern day liberalism: a horrifying checklist ideaology known as neoliberalism, or social justice warrioring.  I may think of myself as a liberal, but jesus tap dancing Christ, the SJW crowd makes me feel legitimately embarrassed to admit out loud that I vote democrat in public.

I could go on, but many other classical liberals have probably made all the points I’d probably be making.  Furthermore, they probably did it more intelligently, and with fewer swear words, because I’m a rude-ass boogan with no shame in using me some colorful language.

This is a crowd I generally want to distance myself from…  Except looking over the rough draft for The Majin Among Us, and making all the edits and additions I feel needed adding, I fear this book may come off as social justice tripe: the very thing I’m NOT going for.

The Majin Among Us is a tail of xenophobia.  A majin and her family find that their cover has been blown by the worst representation of their race: a cannibalistic serial killer with no concepts of restraint, social skills, or diplomacy.  The people take one look at this horrible majin and his wicked ways, and like people are prone to doing, they immediately assume EVERY majin is wicked, unspeakable evil.  From there, it’s a combination of trying to mend the bridge while keeping the guy who ruined it for everyone as far away as possible.

Pretty SJW-ish, right?  Honestly, I’ve based the story on all the stories I’ve heard of retards beating hindus and Sikhs to let us all know Muslams ain’t welcome in Amrrrica.  Or like the local dumbass who lost the mayoral election after running under the most blatant anticimetic platform…  Probably in the history of Kansas for all I know and care, then went on a shooting spree with all the intention of killing as many jews as possible…  Only to end up missing all the jews, and killing a couple Methodist Christians instead.  There are several examples of this caliber of retardation, and I could probably fill an entire blog with nothing but those stories alone.  However, I instead decided to draw influence from those stories when describing the level of ignorance displayed.

Unfortunately, one can’t write a story about racism in this day and age without immediately being labeled some sort of antifa level socialist ideaolog (as if being a right-winged libertarian anarchist somehow isn’t being an ideaolog).  You’re labeled an SJW, and you’re accused of virtue signaling to your fellow SJWs while pandering to the left’s lowest common denominators.

Need proof?  I refer you to the bullshit going on with Marvel comics right now.  A lot of what I can tell you is pretty much second-hand information at best.  Plus I’m strongly in favor of people actually looking it up and formulating their own fucking opinion instead of expecting my dumb ass to spoonfeed it to you.  But in any case, the current state of Marvel…  Well, the movies are doing all right, but the comics are a bit of a disaster right now.  I could probably forgive Ms. Marvel, on the grounds that Ms. Marvel (according to my own research) is less of a character, and more of a mantle handed down from heroine to heroine.  Then you get into things like Captain America just fucking off and shouting “Hile Hydra” so they can get the black guy the roll.  I’ve also heard of things like “Girl Thor”, “Asian Hulk”…  I think Storm might be transgendered now?  Or maybe I misunderstood my friend’s latest rant.  In any case, nobody asked for this.  I sure as shit didn’t want to throw Bruce Banner under the bus so some rando Asian guy could help Marvel show off how PC they are, bruh.  Wearing their sweet-ass Oakleys, and reminding us PC is the way to be for me.  And you.  WOO WOO!

Comparing my work, a work of fiction still in development with virtually no preestablished fanbase (unless fanbases from my previous novels counts, anyway), to Marvel, a studio that’s been around since the 1960s with an impressive legacy some SJW editor decided to wipe his ass with so we can recolor the heroes and find fascinating new ways to scream “FUCK WHITEY!” in approximately twenty-two pages, is probably not fair to me.  Or to Marvel, for all I know and care.  Dude, I WISH I was making Marvel cash at this point in my life, but I digress.

It’s an unfair comparison, sure, but it gives me an idea of the sort of fiction I want to desperately avoid.  Financially speaking, because according to the previously mentioned friend who’s given me all this information, it’s a direction that has thoroughly buttfucked Marvel’s sales.  Culturally speaking, because I’m not a social justice warrior.  We have some common ground, sure, but then you guys go and take it to a very psychotic level of nonsense that even I can’t agree with.

People will, and probably have accused me of having biases.  They’ll probably point out the liberal is the one in Charlie’s Chocolate Factory of Unspeakable Horrors is the soul survivor amongst a conservative, a libertarian, and a communist.  They’ll mention HikikoMorey takes potshots at The Tea Party.  They’ll mention how The Gael Saga demonizes capitalists by making Dan Adelson the A-list villain.  Right after the SJWs accuse me of using Gael as some sexist way of living out some foot fetish fantasy that demeans women, because fuck you for being a male.  Or whatever.

In all those cases…  Fair enough.  Even I’M not one-hundred percent unbiased.  But boy, the last thing I want to do is associate myself with a crowd that makes people like me look bad by association.

Once I’ve picked out a chapter or two I’d like to use as sample chapters, you’ll probably have a better idea of where these concerns are coming from.  Until then, I just want to get this off my chest, and out of my mind.

Reincarnation Blues, My Thoughts

1As much as I love the PEOPLE in my book club, the selections have left something to be desired.

I’ve tried The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neil Stevenson, and I honestly wasn’t impressed.

I tried the first book in Illuminae, and the fact it was classified as young adult might as well have been the red flag to end all red flags.

I tried From a Buic 8 by Stephen King, and was honestly pretty disappointed with it.

So far, out of all the books we’ve picked as a group, the only one I can say I truly loved was Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore.

Reincarnation and spirituality fascinate me.  Having been a kid growing up in the reddest part of Red Kansas, my only choices for religions were Catholicism, and Presbyterianism.  And when I say choices, I meant that my family was Presbyterian, and I had no choice but to be Presbyterian along with them.  So in other words, my spiritual studies could be summarized as “Jesus is correct, worship him or fuck off”.  But I’ve gone on that topic a bunch already, so I won’t bore you with it here.

Moving to the city, and gaining access to the internet were the best things that ever happened to me in this regard, because I found myself researching a lot about religion and spirituality over the course of my life.  I eventually settled on Baha’i, but even after settling, I still like to read what other religions have to say on this matter.  And Reincarnation Blues has an interesting interpretation of how reincarnation works.

Whether Reincarnation Blues builds its model of reincarnation on the Hindu, or the Buddhist concept is something I’m not entirely sure of.  I’m guessing the Buddhist version, considering one of the main character’s lifetimes was during the times of The Buddha himself, but honestly, Buddhism’s concept of the afterlife seems to borrow pretty heavily from Hindu.

The story, regardless, is fascinating.  At worst, I’d say it’s a bit on the predictable side the moment you find out there’s a finite number of lifetimes you’re allowed to have, and the fact the main character only has five more to go, but predictable isn’t the same as bad.

It’s all about attaining enlightenment, and going through “the sun door”.  What awaits you on the other side of the sun door?  Milo doesn’t seem all that interested at first, due to the fact the love of his life exists in the realm between lives.  Love makes you do crazy things.  It makes you lose count of lives and spend a lot of your time between them just hanging around deserts learning how to juggle.  I guess.  And here I thought it just made you forget smelling your girlfriend’s hair is considered creepy.  Don’t ask.

The humor in this book has been likened to Douglas Addams: author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  It really depends on which passage we’re talking about.  Sometimes, I can totally see it.  Other times, that seems like a stretch.  The book has its own, unique, dry sense of humor.  Life and death are clearly irrelevant, and it really needs to be that way, or else the concept of reincarnation really loses its power.

The audiobook is read by Mark Bramhall, and…  He’s okay.  Listening to him read is like listening to a bed time story read by my grandpa, honestly.  Although I don’t think my grandpa ever read me any bed time stories with this much death involved.  In any case, his performance isn’t distracting, and the story never feels like a chore at any point.

I honestly recommend this book.  I’ve even thought of giving it a second readthrough once I’m done with the monumental pile of crap I have in my Audible.com cue right now.  It’s totally worth your time.

New Project, Alabasq

As announced on my Facebook page about…  Two minutes ago, work on my newest project has begun.

Alabasq: the planet of alwayswinter.  Where convicts and traitors to the empire are sent to die, and where “screamers” and “malamute men” reign supreme.  A warzone for some, and a never-ending hell for the rest.

In truth, I’d begun writing Alabasq in 2015.  This was going to be the next thing I attempted to get for-real-published.  Except for the fact that by 2015, I was really getting sick and tired of all the rejection.  Also, five chapters in, I really wasn’t liking the direction it was taking.

I initially gave up on the project, and left it on my harddrive to rot.  Two years later, I’m waiting sorta-patiently for cover art, waiting for something to do with my free time, and one of those things included looking over old projects to see if any of them could be salvaged.  Alabasq, weirdly enough, was the only one in the incomplete folder I still ended up kind of liking.  How I didn’t delete everything else, I’ll never know, but that one, I kept for sure.

Admittedly, I’m writing the entirety of the story from scratch.  The original version focused on two characters on opposite sides of the conflict.  I feel that, in hindsight, it’s a wiser idea to focus on just one.  One coin toss later, the story is still set on Alabasq.  It’s just that it’s going to STAY on Alabasq, and the perspective of the story is less War is hell, and nobody wins”, and more “we must overcome tyranny by casting aside the endless bickering of tribalism.”

I have no idea when this book will be finished.  Ideally, sometime in 2018, but I can’t guarantee anything.  At this point, I’ve only kept one chapter of the original project, and even THAT might be heavily revised to fit the new direction.

I’m also going to be on the hunt for a lot of documentaries and research material regarding wildlife and surviving in the tundra.  Probably going to find a lot of documentaries arguing that climate change is real, and that the Antarctic is suffering the worst…  And I won’t disagree with you guys on that one, but honestly, that’s not what I’m looking for.  All suggestions are welcome.  Leave them in the comment box if you have any.

Till then, I’ll keep you posted on what the progress is like over on my Facebook page as always.  I look forward to seeing where this adventure takes us all.

 

The Hood and the Heroine is Now Available!

 

THATH

 

Roisin O’Malley, better known as Gael, has been released from prison, and joins the army of copycat vigilantes she unintentionally inspired.  Meanwhile, the killer known simply as The Blue Hood continues his killing spree across Sapphire City, leaving an ever growing mountain of dead criminals in his wake.  Dan Adelson: the criminal kingpin the media has since dubbed “The Teal Tyrant”, has joined forces with a cult of assassins known simply as The Diamond Club.  And as if all of this weren’t bad enough, CharKendrick Parks: the serial killer better known throughout Sapphire City and YouTube alike as The Subway Spook, has resumed his murder spree throughout the subways of Sapphire City.  With so many high-profile threats to the city, Gael and The Blue Hood find themselves with quite a bit of common ground, and try their best to build an alliance despite their wildly different outlooks on the true definition of justice.

This is the third, and until further notice, the final chapter of The Gael Saga.  The possibility of sequels aren’t outside the realm of possibility, but without giving too much away, this is DEFINITELY the last book that’ll feature Roisin O’Malley in any way shape or form.

I have had ideas for a possible book 4, and from there, who knows?  Unfortunately, a lot of the ideas I have for book 4 are, at best, scribbles.  I haven’t ruled out the possibility of doing a book 4 further down the line, but for now, everything has been wrapped up in a nice little bundle of completion.  I’m done, I’m done, I’m fucking done!

Not going to lie, this book was an ordeal.  Not an UNPLEASANT ordeal, but this one was the hardest one to write.  Book 1 just oozed out of my head and onto the proverbial paper.  Book 2 was pretty similar in that regard.  Book 3…  Was a lot more complicated.

There were minor inconveniences along the way, like my cover artist unfortunately not being able to meet the deadline I set due to real life and other things happening on their side of the state, and my usual horrible tendency to get distracted by anything shiny.  However, the biggest complication of all was probably actually making it to the finish line.

The Gael Saga is literally the first time in forever that I’ve seen something through from start to finish.  I have several book 1s of this series or that series on my harddrive, but Those books were originally for the for-real publishers.  After months of trying to sell these things to literary agents and publishers alike, I shrugged, said “fuck it”, and went to KDP, but rather than publish all those stories to KDP, I just moved on to the next project.

The Jad Blade Legacy is the first series I’ve written for that’s seen a book 2, and even that one is currently up in limbo due to my parting with Outskirts Press.  I started writing book 3 in 2013, and while I made some degree of progress, I never did get finished with it.

The Gael Saga started in 2016, and ended as of…  Well technically two days ago, but but yeah, it’s officially finished.  End of an era, man.  I’m not sure how to feel about it.  There’s that sense of accomplishment, sure, but there’s a lot of other thoughts in my head as well.  Specifically, where the fuck do I go from here?

All questions will be answered when I get around to it.  In the meantime, enjoy the final chapter of The Gael Saga!

You can get your copy here.

 

So Yeah… No Gael Novel.

So…  Yeah…  Unfortunately, there are some last minute complications.  I alluded to them very briefly on my Facebook, and I don’t plan on going any further into depth than that, but for those who don’t get their Thomas J. Black fix on Facebook…  Yeah, there have been some problems.

For starters, the cover art.  It’s not here yet.  I, nor my artist, anticipated real life getting in the way of things.

Secondly, I’m having…  Words, with KDP currently.

The story has less to do with anything going on with book 3, and more to do with attempting to make repairs to book 2.  A reader on Reader’s Favorite let me know of some minor spelling errors I didn’t catch.  I also wanted to fix a very minor continuity error, and I wanted to switch the interior from color to black and white.  Having a color interior so that the title page can have one word written in orange seems kind of stupid in hindsight.  Plus, it’s already like that on the cover.  Also, I have to sell the book for a minimum price in order to cover printing costs, and when you publish a book with a color interior, that minimum price goes WAY up.  Call me crazy, but $22 for a 170 page book sounds ridiculous.

Furthermore, after uploading the revised manuscript to KDP, I noticed the minimum price actually went from $20 to fucking $30.75!  Now that’s definitely not worth charging for a 170 page book in my opinion.

I’m currently in talks with KDP on how to fix this dilemma, and…  In all honesty, KDP seems stumped.  They gave me an idea or two to try, but there’s no guarantee it’ll work.  Also, They insisted my conversation with them was going to get sent up to corporate.  Apparently, wanting to switch your interior from color to black-and-white, and vise versa, is a possibility the board of directors didn’t anticipate.  Leave it to the blind guy to stumble across something nobody ever thought of, right?  It’s iPhone1 all fucking over again.

So yeah.  complications with all things Gael have made it impossible for me to put up The Hood and the Heroine on time.  Believe me, I cannot apologize enough for the inconvenience.  I do hope to get this all fixed before October.

For the foreseeable future, though, I’m thinking of putting up an ad for a new cover artist.  My current artist does great work, and I’d totally recommend him for a gig if you’re looking for somebody, but from what he’s told me, things are getting a bit hectic on his end of the net, and I may want to consider other options in the future as a result.  Life happens.  I get it.

I can’t guarantee when the book will be out for sure.  I do hope to have it up by October, and if I have to upload a coverless version, then so be it.

Stay tuned to this blog for further news regarding this matter.  I’ll try to keep you posted if any developments occur.

A Taste of Things to Come: The Hood and The Heroine Sample Chapter!

With the release of The Hood and the Heroine mere weeks away, I figured I would further tease the shit out of my audience, and give you guys a bit of a taste of what’s to come.  Enjoy your sample chapter.  Fragment.  Thing.

NOTE: this is the third draft version of the chapter.  If there are any noticeable spelling errors in the text, please keep in mind that this is still being worked on.  Although knowing my process, the third draft is where all the blatantly obvious spelling errors are fixed.  Still, try to keep in mind this might not be the final version of the chapter.

 

 

THE HOOD AND THE HEROINE: BOOK 3 OF THE GAEL SAGA

COPYRIGHT 2017 BY THOMAS J. BLACK

 

 

5: ROISIN

Our first mission was that night. I was legitimately surprised how quickly I was able to assemble a group. I thought for sure there were only going to be about two other people. Instead, I ended up with ten people who wanted to take part! Technically nine other people, since it was a guarantee Jennifer was going to come along.

In hindsight, I probably would’ve given them something a little lower profile than an arms deal on the docks. Sure, these were girls who were taking down muggers, and maybe the occasional independent crack dealer in Aventurine Cove. And I suppose even those gigs had all the potential in the world to go south. According to Jennifer, a few of them did.

It was the first time I had to lead an entire team. I wasn’t used to leading anything. I was on teams before, but the only reason gymnasts are on teams is because they represent a school, or a town, or a country. The only time it’s actually a team sport is if you have some sort of two-woman synchronized routine or something. And I’m pretty sure that sort of thing is reserved for swimming, or cheerleading. It’s basically just you throwing shapes on the balance beam, the uneven bars, or even just on the floor.

We got there before the deal took place, and I pointed out the places I used to hide when this was just a solo act. Before Adelson started making this more complicated, and had people meet with other people, who’d then meet with more people, and so on. We hid, and we cast our glamours to blend in with the scenery.

The dealer and his clients showed up a few minutes later. We watched as the dealer (a Russian guy) talked business with a group of men. I counted about five. We had the numbers advantage for sure… But I was having doubts ten girls on their first mission could beat six guys who’d probably done this a bunch of times before, and knew how to deal with trespassers.

The plan was going smoothly… Right up until Jennifer’s phone went off. It was set on vibrate, but even vibrating cell phones make noise. And the sound of the vibrating was enough to shatter her glamour. Worse than that, the damn eejit thought she could sneak up on the guy, and… Well, who knows? Guess we never will now.

Somehow, she avoided becoming a casualty. Hell, the worst she got was a black eye! We all dispelled our glamours, and went into action. I don’t like to throw shapes outside of gymnastics, but at the same time, this wasn’t my first fight. I knew how to dodge, I knew how to disarm, and I knew how to work in an occasional vault, or side flip in between. The other girls, meanwhile, stuck to weaving and dodging the old fashioned way, and for the most part, it worked.

At the end of the melee, all six of the men involved were disarmed, and secured for police pickup. Unfortunately, three of the Gaels were injured. I was no doctor, but I was pretty sure one of them was going to need a miracle, or a day and a half with the Earth to recover from those bullet wounds. All and all, it wasn’t quite how I wanted to end the first mission of the night, but I suppose someone more military minded than I would say the important thing is that the mission was a success.

And then he showed up. Right in the middle of our interrogation, I heard something. A couple of the girls panicked… And I can’t blame them too much. Again, it’s their first mission. Also, my plans for the mission hadn’t counted on him showing up.

I looked over, and saw one of the six men we’ve apprehended was now dead. A ninja star was lodged into his throat, and blood was fountaining out of him as he lay there on the ground.

Just as I was calming the girls down, I saw another ninja star come out of the shadows! I dodged… Only to realize the star wasn’t intended for me in the first place. The dealer I was interrogating got hit right between the eyes, and fell to the ground screaming in agony.

“Show yourself!” I shouted.

“Get out while you can!” a voice shouted back. It was clear he was using some sort of voice changer to hide his identity, but it was a little unsettling how deep he’d set it. It sounded like feckin’ Satan had just told me to get out.

To my annoyance, a few of the girls decided to take his advice, and bail. Before I could convince them to get back here, another ninja star came out of the shadows, and killed another of the dealers. Then another. And another. By the time I could get some semblance of order, only one guy was left standing. Before he could throw one more star, I got in front of the last target.

“This one lives!” I shouted.

“Why?” the demon voice demanded.

I thought it over for a second, and replied, “This is clearly an Adelson operation. If we can’t figure out where Adelson is hiding, he can at least forward a message for me.”

There was silence for a moment. Most likely, he was contemplating a possibility that hadn’t occurred to him. Then, he responded.

“You won’t get anything out of these guys,” he said. “But if you really want to advertise yourself to Dan Adelson that badly…”

Rather than finish his sentence, I guess he decided to take his exit.

The police eventually came, and apprehended the surviving dealer. I made it a point to glamour myself and go into hiding, letting Jennifer and The Gael Army take all the credit for it. And to be honest, they deserved it. Cell phone mishap notwithstanding, they handled themselves a lot better than I was expecting, and were able to improv just fine when our cover was blown. Considering ole Starman was another little variable we hadn’t counted on, they could’ve done a lot worse.

The man was apprehended, and taken to jail (I assume). The rest of the girls were also taken down to the station, but compared to the survivor, it was more for testimony than for any counts of vigilante justice.

I was able to sneak my way past the officers as they put up the tape, and began their investigation. The next morning, the details would be made public to the masses. And it wasn’t till I saw the reports that I realized what just happened.

The Gael Army did get a couple mentions, but as far as the media was concerned, we were just bystanders. They made it sound like we’d shown up too late, and tried to talk him out of killing all of them. It was annoying, but only slightly. Especially when it occurred to me right then and there that I had just come face to face with none other than The Blue Hood himself.

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.: My Thoughts

I ask you audience: what the fuck do you people see in Neil Stevenson? Because between this, and Seven Eves (heh, I see what you did there), I just don’t get it.
Recently, I joined a scifi book club. Yeah, I know, me being social. The end of days may be upon us pretty soon. Although I think The Kansas City Chiefs have to win the superbowl before it’s TRULY official. Whatever.
The scifi bookclub I joined chose The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. as their book of the month to read. Considering I’ve been spending the last couple of months alternating between Wings of Fire by Tui T. Sutherland (a book series about dragons that I can’t decide on whether or not I might be a little too old for), The Demon Accord by John Conroe (a series of books I honestly liked a lot better when it was called Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter), and the occasional Yahtzee Croshaw book, I probably needed a change of pace. It’s just too bad that it had to be this near-800 page brick of a dud.I was willing to give Stevenson the benefit of a doubt. I couldn’t see my way past the first part of Seven Eves when I picked it up, but I still can’t decide if it was because of the story itself, or if it was because Mary Robinette Kowal’s voice really annoyed me. She has a weird accent that according to my memory, is very George Tekai.

But hey, sometimes, an author puts out a dud. I myself, in my infinite wisdom, felt like Homecoming: a Novella of Highfill, Kansas needed a sequel for reasons I can’t remember anymore, so yeah, even I’m capable of doing it. So maybe Seven Eves was just one dud in an otherwise steller catalogue.
If The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is anything to go on… Yeah, no. I’m officially in the minority. Hashtag-TJBHatesEverything and what not.
D.O.D.O. is a government organization built around the concept of time travel. For a lot of scifi guys, that right there is already a red flag. Time travel is one of those concepts that even GOOD authors struggle with. Add on the fact that Stevenson manages to include multiverse theory into time travel, and it becomes an even more tangled mess.
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is read by at least ten different readers. And while I perked up when I heard Luke Motherfucking Daniels was one of them, the rest were a real mixed bag. Each reader reads from the perspective of one character, which is actually a really cool idea, and I really wish more audio books would do that. I’m not especially familiar with the other nine readers, though. I could tell you their names after looking up the book on Audible.com, but I couldn’t tell you who played who. Other than Luke Daniels, of course.
I will say, though, that whoever they got to voice Stokes was a SERIOUS miscast. Someone who is stranded in 1851 England with little to no hope of returning should NOT be this fucking perky. Everybody else in the recording, though, is passable at worst, and pretty damn good at best.
Then we get into the story. Oh god, the story.
Stevenson apparently decided to tell the story through a compilation of Stokes’ diary, government emails, memos, letters to the queen, transcripts of video conversations, and so on. It’s not especially obnoxious… Until you get to part 3, anyway. Then it becomes a serious fucking chore to get through.
The entirety of the book club can at least agree with me on the fact this was not a great idea. I personally believe they could’ve stuck with Stokes’ diary from 1851, and call it good.  It’d probably be three hundred pages shorter, but oh well. Length does not dictate quality of story. You’re talking to a guy who’s written books that barely hit the one-hundred page count.

I personally didn’t care for how the Stokes diary chapters basically announced what the chapter was going to be about.  I’ve literally seen titles for Dragon Ball Z episodes that left more to the imagination than this.

Some of the group think that Stokes was way too detailed in her descriptions, despite complaining constantly about hand cramps from writing with a quill pen, or shortage of ink or paper, and just that nobody could hope to remember the insane amount of detail put into each conversation. I see what they’re talking about, but honestly, that’s the one thing I personally could look past. Largely because by the time I’d gotten to parp 4, a fucking unicorn could’ve come through space and time, farted a rainbow, and blown up the Earth, and I still could’ve shrugged, said “whatever”, and used the book to squash cockroaches. If I had a copy of the print version, that is.
The story overall doesn’t go anywhere. It’s not really a story so much as it is a series of events. Someone in the group said it reminded them of someone writing a pilot to a TV show, and it’s not hard to see where he got that.

The concept of time travel in this series is heavily built around Schrodinger’s Cat.  IE, you can only travel through time and space when you somehow achieve a state of dead-alive.  if you can somehow convince the world you’re both dead and alive, you can convince the world you are both in the present, and…  Well, say, 1851.  That’s actually kind of a neat idea.

It’s just too bad we had to achieve the concept of time travel through WITCHCRAFT.

I have no problem with sorcery in my fiction.  Especially nowadays, where I’m a lot more open to the fantasy genre than I used to be.  It seems like they spend all this time talking about witches, and how they can do all this magic, but aside from turning an apple into an orange, or turning a can of white paint into a can of black paint in the beginning, the only thing the witchcraft is used for is time travel.  And maybe mind control towards the end.

The thing about time travel in this book that gets me, though, is that just because you accomplished this deed in the 1600s doesn’t mean it carries over to our specific present day.  Remember, I said this version of time travel includes multiverse theory ON TOP of past and present.  Meaning that the version of the past where you meddled probably isn’t the version of the past that’s on our timeline!  Meaning you have to go back in time at least FOUR OTHER TIMES if you want to accomplish what you want!  That, or create a disaster so catastrophic that the entirety of time and space has to go out of its way to rewrite more than one timeline in order to stay afloat.

Keeping that in mind, the only REAL way to change time is to basically burn down taverns, or murder super-important figures in time.  Otherwise, what’s even the point!?  It’s all an exercise in repetition.

But there in lies the theme.  The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is pretty much a 700+ page allegory on the mind-numbing repetitive nature, general incompatence, and bureaucratic nightmare of government.  Wow, a book that’s extremely critical of The United States government?  WOW!  Haven’t read that one before.  And in 2017 no less!  All we need now is a thinly disguised representation of Donald Trump, and we’ve hit the zenith of creativity that no one has ever thought of reaching!  *sigh*

Okay, let’s cool off.  I know I’m going to get hatemail up the wazoo from Stevenson fans no matter what I have to say (I hear he has a cult following), but let’s cool down.

As much shit as I give this book, I DID manage to see it to the end.  More than I can say for Seven Eves, that’s for sure.  The book was tedious enough to annoy me frequently, and make me consider putting it down to read something I actually WANT to read.  On the other hand, the premise was actually intriguing enough to where I actually wanted to see where it was going.  There was a good story in this near 800 page brick somewhere.  I just wish someone up in editing had taken out the chainsaw and made the effort to hack away the driftwood to get there.

Will Save the Galaxy for Food: My Thoughts

Yahtzee Croshaw.  Now there’s a mouthful of a name if I ever heard one.  Croshaw is well known for several things: a couple other books I haven’t gotten to yet, a series of adventure games made with one of those Game Maker esque programs I’ve really been meaning to pick up, and perhaps the thing that sealed the deal and made me a fan for good, his game review series.

Zero Punctuation has become one of my favorite things to watch on YouTube lately.  Considering Youtube is on the verge of censoring itself into oblivion (apparently), it probably won’t be there much longer, but for now, I’m enjoying the trip.  Admittedly, if you don’t like the color yellow, you’re probably not going to like this show.  There’s a lot of yellow in the background.  But even if that’s a turn off, I’ve found looking away from the screen and focusing primarily on the audio works just as well.  I’m not a very vision-oriented person, though, so maybe that’s just me.  And maybe you like yellow, which in that case, go ahead and look at the screen.  Look to your heart’s content!

Semi-related note: did you know there’s an honest to god phobia of the color yellow?  I forget what it’s called, and I’m not exactly in any hurry to Google it, but yeah, that’s a thing.  Go figure.

While marathoning some Zero Punctuation one night, I saw at the end of one of his videos that he’d apparently written a book.  At the time, I didn’t know he was an author with two other books in the can prior to this one, so you’ll forgive me if I’m going in reverse order.  It’s like the Star Wars trilogy all over again.  The good one.  Not the prequel one, or the J.J. one we’re working on right now.

Fortunately, the books are unrelated.  Say for maybe a reference to his book, Jam, I read through Will Save the Galaxy for Food, and didn’t feel like I had to backtrack.  True, I’m GOING TO backtrack, but it’s because I want to, not because I have to.

I love these kind of space epics.  The Expanse is fun if you want hardcore science fiction in the real world…  Or about as close to the real world as you can possibly get.  However, I’ve always found my favorite scifi was the kind of scifi that threw up its hands and said “fuck it”.  Is there such a planet as the one he takes people on a tour of in chapter 1?  Fuck if I know.  We did discover a whole other solar system a couple months ago with three planets that could hypothetically support life and all, but man, I don’t fucking care.  We’re never going to see those planets.  Between the fact that, last I checked, a science-denying hypocrite by the name of Ted Cruz has a pretty high-ranking position in NASA, and the fact it takes literally for fucking ever to get there with the technology we have, it’s not happening in MY lifetime for sure.  So just give me a fucking fantasy to hold on to.

The book gives me flashbacks to the various Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, what with its mostly well-flushed-out environments, great characters (even the obnoxious one-percenter teenager and his pink-haired girlfriend have their charm), and dry British humor.  Although instead of a nifty device that was a laptop in the 1970s, a cell phone in 2001, and god only knows what it’ll be if they ever give us another Hitchhiker’s Guide thing in the present day, we have the captain of the S.S. God of Whalesharks.

The audio book is read by the author himself, Yahtzee Croshaw.  I have to admit, it’s weird hearing him read in a slow, reserved sort of way.  I guess I’m too used to his million miles a second ramblefest style from Zero Punctuation.  All the same, I love his performance.  No two characters sound exactly the same, and I imagine the captain himself with Croshaw’s normal voice.

It’s a fascinating read, and I highly recommend it.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have two other books to get caught up on.